Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Heights of Derringdo

The picture reminds me of a mountain in Glacier Bay, Alaska. However, it is somewhat closer to home. At least the home country I grew up in as a teenager. Anybody recognize where it is? And the name of the mountain?

It's Storm King Mountain, looming above the Hudson River in New York State, about half way between the US Military Academy at West Point and Newburgh.

If you look closely at the base of the mountain you'll see the roadbed of the old WestShore Railroad, and at a higher level, Highway 218 climbing along the side of the mountain. When we were living at West Point in the early 1940's we would ride a rickety 1930's bus over the mountain and it was always a scary experience with sheer drop-off's alongside the narrow road.

Even more thrilling was a camping experience some of us boys had in 1943. Several of us decided to camp out along the river - no adults allowed. Early the morning after the sleep out we decided we would climb Storm King from the river to the road at one of its higher points. For a moment go back to the picture - take a close look at the picture. See if you can find a way upto the road. Frankly, I can't see how we did it. We had no mountaineering equipment. Wait a minute - yes, we did. We had a few lengths of clothesline - and that was all. At first it seemed fairly easy. However, the higher we went the rougher the climb became. We began to use the clothesline. We dug our tennis shoes into small cracks in the granite. And we made the mistake of looking down. Not good - several of us got a bit dizzy and began to wonder if we should go back down. It looked worse down than it did up.

Needless to say, we became survivers of sorts. After we surmounted the wall along the road we faced oncoming traffic from both ways on a narrow road where we would not have picked up a hitchhike ride even if we had tried. By the time we got to the lowest level of the road we quickly retreated into the forest close by the railroad tracks and patted ourselves on the back for accomplishing a seemingly impossible mountain climb.

At the same time, we agreed that none of use would tell our parents what we had done, and agreed, without any question, that we would not do something like that again. And, as the title suggests, it was a ridiculous moment of derring do by a few teenagers who had more daring than common sense. And survived.

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